The Smithfield Town Council on Tuesday promoted from within, hiring its veteran police chief as town manager.
For his swearing-in ceremony, Michael Scott hung up his police uniform, choosing instead a coat and tie.
Smithfield had been without a manager since last August, when a divided council fired Paul Sabiston, ushering him out with $50,000 in severance pay.
Smithfield hired Sabiston in April 2012 in the wake of a pay-raise scandal that cost former manager Eric Williams the same job.
Scott said he’s not concerned about the manager turnover in Smithfield.
“I came to do everything I could to make a difference for the citizens living here,” said Scott, who came to Smithfield from the Midwest. “I think this is taking that goal one step further.”
Scott said he looked forward to bringing stability to the job. “It’s time for Smithfield to be consistent in management, and I’ve proven I can do that,” he said. “I’m really not worried.”
Scott said he brought his family to Johnston County seven years ago with the intention of making Smithfield their home for 10 years. “As it turns out, I hope it’s a lot longer than that,” he said. “Smithfield is home now.”
On Tuesday, Scott signed a one-year contract that will pay him $95,000, up from $83,271.95 as chief.
Nine months from now, the contract will automatically renew unless the town or Scott ends it. If the council does not renew the contract, then Scott could receive two months’ salary in severance pay. The severance package would increase with each year of service.
Among the perks he will receive are $300 a month for a car and $70 a month for a cell phone. The town will also pay for Scott’s membership in professional associations related to his job.
Scott will receive dual employment with the town as an auxiliary police officer so he can keep his law enforcement certification in North Carolina. He will be allowed to purchase his chief’s badge and his service weapon for $1 when he leaves the town’s employ.
Scott, who had been police chief since October 2009, has more than 30 years of government experience in Iowa and North Carolina.
In choosing Scott as manager, the council noted his management experience, commitment to fiscal responsibility, responsiveness to citizens, vision of community policing and team-building skills.
Since Scott became chief, the town said in a news release, Smithfield has seen violent crime fall by nearly a third.
“We are pleased and confident to know that we have found the best candidate within our own family,” Mayor Andy Moore said.
Scott began his news duties immediately after taking the oath of office. The search for Smithfield’s next police chief will begin soon, with Capt. Keith Powell serving as interim chief.
Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from Kaplan University and a master’s degree in law enforcement administration from Western Illinois University. He holds a certificate in executive administration from Western Illinois . His wife, Peggy, held the Bible during his oath Tuesday.
The council put off hiring a new manager until after the November election, which produced two new council members and a new mayor. Smithfield received 33 applications from across the country.
The council discussed candidates in a series of closed-door meetings and did not heed a public call to include businesspeople, community leaders and citizens in the hiring process.
The town manager acts as the town’s chief administrative and financial officer, overseeing day-to-day operation of all town departments. He reports to the mayor and council.
Jim Freeman, who served as interim town manager during the search for Scott, likely will stay on at least through the adoption of a new budget.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett